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WA State Troopers carry bean bag shotguns to prevent suicides by cop

WA State Troopers carry bean bag shotguns to prevent suicides by cop

TRI-CITIES, Wash. -- For several months now, Washington State Troopers have been carrying a new weapon in their cars—one that could save lives.

All WA State Troopers now have a special shotgun on hand--one with bean bag bullets designed to stun, not kill.

“Okay, we're in a scenario now where this person has a knife in their hand, a bat in their hand, and they're walking at us really slowly, demanding that we kill him in an attempt to get a suicide by cop,” said Trooper Chris Thorson, acting out a scenario with a target in place. “We can deploy this less-than-lethal bean bag round.”

Thorson yelled out a warning before he fired at the target:

“Less-than-lethal! Less-than-lethal! Drop the knife, drop the knife!”

Bean bag bullets won't do as much damage as a normal shotgun round, which is the point, Thorson said.

“This is a good thing,” he said. “If we can actually subdue someone instead of shooting them and potentially killing them and actually get them the help they need--that's our ultimate goal.”

Troopers said they're now riding with bean bag shot guns to prevent suicide by cop incidents.

“Some people who wish to end their own life don't want to do it on their own,” Thorson explained. “So what they'll do is they'll engage a police officer with either a knife or some other deadly object and make a police officer shoot them.”

Thorson said no state trooper has had to use the shotguns so far—but they could be useful if someone were having a mental health crisis.

“Our goal is not to come out here and shoot people or potentially kill them,” he said. “We all have families, we have children, that's not our goal when we come to work. So luckily this will give us another option to potentially use this instead of shoot somebody.”

Thorson said the bean bag guns are a great tool.

“The ultimate goal in that scenario is to get them the help they need,” Thorson said. “Not to shoot them and potentially kill them.”

He said the shotguns will hopefully prevent more suicides by cop, while keeping responders safe.

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